What do you collect and why?

Published 6:35 am Sunday, April 21, 2013

Column: Art Is, by Bev Jackson Cotter

Do your collections reflect your heritage, your hobbies or your travels?

I have visited homes where china cabinets almost overflow with beautiful dishes, some of a certain style, others purchased or saved because they are unique. There’s the man who collects guns, the lady who collects dolls and the Gene Autry fan who collects western memorabilia. The 1950s enthusiast who collects rock ’n’ roll records and the Mickey Mouse fanatic who had tons of items related to that famous mouse.

Bev Jackson Cotter

Bev Jackson Cotter

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I once knew a gentleman who collected almost anything. He loved picking up stuff so much so, that he had to build a shed, a large one, to put it all in. Then there’s the person (now I’m assuming that it’s a man because of the type of equipment on his property) whose collection has outgrown the house, the garage and the farm buildings, the yard and the farm yard and is now encroaching into his corn field. Now that’s serious collecting when your stuff affects the corn yield.

And then there are people like my mother who didn’t collect anything. Her home was decorated and comfortable and that was enough.

Unfortunately, her sense of “enough” was not passed down to me. I have enough biographies, art books and history books to start a small library, and I sometimes wonder about their future, but I don’t wonder too much. Then there’s the lovely dishes and the Egypt memorabilia and the…

So, why do people collect? Is it to fill a shelf with items of unusual interest? To help them remember a favorite person, a special trip or a special time in their life?

And what about the art collector who loves the work of a certain artist? Recently I was talking to a friend whose paintings sell for an average of $5,000 each. He’d had a customer/fan/collector who couldn’t choose one out of the four paintings she liked, so she decided to purchase all four of them. I would love to see the inside of her home. The energy created from these paintings would affect the personality of the entire house.

Then there was the collector who collected art because he could afford it. He paid millions for items that were stored in warehouses simply because he wanted them. Instead of being someplace in a museum or even a private home where they could be enjoyed and shared, this gentleman chose to tuck them away for his own private use. My thoughts on that one – what a waste.

Collecting is a funny concept. My American heritage dictionary defines the word as “to accumulate as a hobby or for study.” It defines the word “collected” as the past tense of collect and also as “self possessed and composed.”

I prefer to think that my collections are not just stuff, but that they are the embodiment of my composure. Now how’s that for rationalization?


Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of the Albert Lea Art Center, 224 S. Broadway, Albert Lea. The current exhibit at the Art Center is entitled “Family Heirlooms-Collections.” It’s a delightful display of mementos, traditions and interests. Do stop in and enjoy. The exhibit runs through May 24.